From Bryan Green and WAKEUP CALL
For many operators in the hospitality industry, it makes sense that a constant focus on the property’s fitness amenity would be unlikely given the balance of priorities. However, as we all know, guest expectations as they relate to an offering in fitness continue to grow each and every year. Because it is clear that the fitness center is a frequent part of the guest experience for many, it’s critical to gain a solid understanding of the fundamentals every property must attend to, regardless of the size or stature of the space.
Equipment balance, entertainment, environment, cleanliness, and safety are the essential considerations for this high demand offering. Wellness trends are consistently evolving, and a facility can certainly not be viewed as a one-time investment in fitness equipment and space allocation. The common denominator between these hospitality based environments remains their relevance and appeal to the guests they serve. Exercise and environmental trends for the most part will consistently carry through regardless of what level of property you are tasked with operating.
In a commercial health club, users have time to spend strength training specific muscles or looking for group exercise classes to provide training variety. Today, the average business traveler carries 2.68 mobile devices with them, spends 37 percent of their network connection time during business trips at hotels, and consequently needs a fitness amenity to accommodate such a time restrictive schedule. The resort guest is rarely different, as those who work-out indoors while on vacation, are typically simply trying to keep up with their health routine vs. seeing the sights or relaxing by the pool. The goal for both of these user types is to allow them to quickly and efficiently perform their exercise. This means help them get their cardio workout in and incorporate basic strength and flexibility equipment that focuses on multiple muscle groups so the work out is fast and functional.
Cardio equipment needs to be varied to assist users with various requirements due to age, physical condition, and potential bodily limitations. A baseline offering of treadmills, cross-trainers, and bikes are key. Additionally, consider an upper body ergometer to satisfy both upper body cardiovascular workout trends as well as ADA compliance. Functional strength training systems are all about cable based solutions with infinite adjustability. Today, less is more in the strength training category. Don’t attempt to recreate the traditional “circuit’ found in most big box health clubs. Rather, look for equipment that provides more exercise and adjustment flexibility on a series of smaller modular based equipment. You must also provide a limited, but modest dumbell and adjustable bench training area for free-weight work-out.
Here is an area that hotels have an opportunity to compete even more favorably than the average health club. Hoteliers know guest experience better than anyone. Big or small, your gym needs to be an extension of the on property experience. Too many hotels make the mistake of trying to emulate the look of the local health club down the street. The key is to create the space to look and feel like it was intentional, not simply an add on because you had to.
Hotel fitness center spatial planning differs from a commercial gym. It’s critical that the fitness center layout afford enough space to accommodate the sporadic volume and usage periods of hotel guests. The extra touches also can make a big difference such as towel service, fruit infused water, and even the use of ambient scent. Incorporate light colored, but exercise specific flooring. This is an area where many commercial health club operators begin to cut corners and use the more commonplace and less expensive black recycled rubber products. You don’t have as much space to cover, so spend a little extra and choose a flooring system. This will accentuate the beauty of your space, while providing the durability and functionally needed for exercise specific flooring.
Technology is a fundamental part of the indoor exercise experience today. From TV to workout data capture, there are a plethora of established and up and coming systems entering the exercise marketplace. Entertainment demand continues to drive the most prevalent of guest expectation. Due to the dynamic motion during exercise of popular cardiovascular equipment, such as treadmills and cross trainers, make it difficult to read; therefore viewing panels, either affixed or ambient are key. Studies have also shown that nearly 95% of those that use cardio equipment, do not utilize programs or other features of the upper displays themselves. So, save the money on extra programs or features less appealing to your transient user based. Focus more investment on facilitating guest entertainment, and wherever possible the usage of their own content such as movies, videos, and music heavily carried today via mobile device.
Progressive manufacturers are scrambling to allow for the integration of tablets and other smart devices into workouts performed on their equipment. Lets face it, most of us now have more power and technology in the devices we commonly carry; far outweighing the visual clarity, technology, and programming made available on even the best model treadmills. Some manufactures on their premium lines have indeed created entertainment and workout data capture solutions that are appealing and expandable, and therefore should certainly be considered for luxury operators. Beyond entertainment, these systems provide further engagement opportunities for both the guest as well as the facility operator. Exercisers can now easily track their workout data including time, calories, and exercise intensity and view this information in the leisure of their hotel room or when they return home via a free website. The hotel may also stand to gain benefits in terms of asset management. Valuable data can be captured and compiled by unit to help measure usage data, and to proactively alert staff of equipment outages before receiving guest complaints.
Today, the threat of wide scale microbial contamination is greater than ever. The gym environment presents a natural breeding ground for these contaminants. Understanding what the risks are and what can be done to create a hygiene friendly facility will help you comprehensively achieve a most healthy fitness experience for your guests.
Germ evasion techniques are on the minds of travelers today and since providing comfort while away from home is the benchmark of the hospitality industry; there is no reason to stop at the gym. Demonstrate that you know cleanliness is an important issue while visiting the fitness facility. Good ventilation, natural light (when possible), and towel service instantly set the stage for a safe and healthy workout experience. As the impact of maintaining a super clean and fresh smelling space should not be underestimated, guests must also see it to believe it. Meaning, providing visible stations of self-service equipment wipe dispensers and hand sanitizers are an important way to show your attention to this top of mind health matter for your guests. Subsequently, you are also empowering your guests to participate themselves in the process of upkeep as well as their personal safety.
As previously mentioned, quality rubber flooring is highly recommended for both functional and aesthetic concerns, and further from a hygienic perspective. Non-porous rubber flooring is easily cleaned with powerful disinfectants and allows for a much quicker removal of sweat after guest use. Carpet is less functional, wears more quickly, and can become a haven for mildew and other bacteria to accumulate.
The layout of the fitness center needs to promote a safe environment for exercise. The fitness amenity with all its activity and traffic can be a hotbed for potential accidents and liability nightmares. The importance of planning to reduce the odds of such problems cannot be over-emphasized. Sufficient room between strength stations and cardiovascular equipment will assist in the makings of an efficient traffic flow plan.
Delineated areas for stretching and movement-based exercises will go a long way to increasing the safety of the environment and decreasing potential for accidents. It’s also important to consider the location of the fitness center within the overall layout of the hotel/resort. For example, female guests in particular will appreciate a well-lit, high-traffic location for the fitness center where they will feel safe and secure regardless of when they may choose to exercise.
Accepting that the fitness environment is a dynamic one with moving equipment and guests vs. static furniture in your lobby will help create the right mindset for your staff as to how best to create the safety and other special considerations of your amenity. Creating happy and relaxed guests after a positive exercise experience may well yield greater participation in other on property offerings such as restaurants, gift shops, or maybe simply minimize complaints. One thing is for sure, the demand for a safe, clean, and updated fitness center remains stronger than ever and the dynamics of such continue to evolve. Good planning and basic budget provision will help drive confidence in your staff as it relates to what you are offering your guests in fitness. An ongoing relationship with an experienced operational fitness consultancy will also help insure that your facility is able to keep reasonable pace with the ever-changing world of fitness.